How to Measure Healthcare Brand Perception

HIMSS Analytics

Every market is defined by demand, by its customers. Health IT is no different. But the market does provide some added challenges. For instance, in health IT, both patients and hospital employee end users develop perceptions of your brand, based on varied goals and needs. Your brand swims in a sea of competitors — a sea sometimes moved by swift currents of policy and innovation. You need to be adaptable, evolving, growing — all the time. And your brand needs to remain visible and appealing to an audience that both shifts with your market and influences the shifts within it.

That last bit is the reason your ability to measure brand perception is critical to growth. Knowing who your audience is and what that audience thinks will help you maintain wide brand awareness and positive perception.

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Measuring Perception? Begin with Questions

Before you can establish a baseline and gather the right data, you need to make decisions about what you want to measure. Your qualitative, strategic goals should come first. Do you want an unbiased list that allows you to dig into awareness percentage in a given market? Do you want a comparative assessment of your brand relative to given competitors? Are you interested in discovering the depth of knowledge a particular demographic possesses about your product? List the questions you want answered and identify how they each connect to the broader market (if that much isn't immediately evident).

The Data Factor: You Must Compare

Next, establish the baseline. And maintain consistency in that data collection effort. The baseline is critical as it helps the organization to determine if progress has been made. The expectation is that familiarity and awareness will improve (and hopefully your perception ratings will go along for the ride) as the sales and marketing channels continue to work their magic and execute on strategic vision. How will you know when you have been successful without a trusted and established baseline from an credible and unbiased source. Maintaining consistency across those brand evaluations will help you to determine exactly how trustworthy the data is as you move away from that baseline.

Let's say you are interested in penetration among CMIOs, but also want to understand depth of knowledge about your product or service. Consider taking a comparative approach. You should ask not only how many CMIOs are aware of you vs. your competitor, but also how much those CMIOs know about you compared to that competitor.

Comparison keeps your data analysis in context. For instance, if your brand is in the precision medicine market - where brands are still establishing themselves as forces and penetration is not at the level of, say, EMR - your brand may be just as well known as any other. But if you found out your brand only had a five percent awareness among CMIOs, you might be disappointed — that is, unless you knew your competitor sat at two percent.

Get Qualitative Details

If you start with simple "awareness" metrics, perception is the clear path. You may want to find out what, in particular, certain audiences feel about your product, and why they feel it.

"If you find out there's a negative perception, it's important to think about why," says Bryan Fiekers, senior director of research services at HIMSS Analytics. "Anything could be creating a negative perception, from a too-boisterous CEO to a social media manager who keeps hammering the wrong subjects. But you have to get to that understanding through more precise communication."

Fiekers suggests telephone interviews and email surveys. "Get the goals, get the baseline, and drill into the 'why'," he says.

Do It Again

The market doesn't stand still. When it comes to understanding brand perception, you can't just take a snapshot and expect it to be maintained. Undoubtedly you want this perception to evolve and improve based on the efforts you're making in the market. Understanding where you are in relation to your baseline is valuable, but constantly evaluating the brand's standing is also a key piece. The baseline should move. Tying any shift from your original baseline back to the efforts you made is critical to understanding your ROI on those efforts.

Think about everything in the context of target buyers. If, for some reason, you aren't hitting your numbers, it may be time to find more empirical data to show you are targeting the right audience, the right roles, the right bed size. Tie it all in and start over in the goal, measurement and evaluation process.

Seeing Only Opportunity

Don't let the continuous improvement cycle deter you from beginning to measure brand awareness or perception. You can use the cycle to identify and evaluate areas of opportunity. Maybe you were targeting the wrong individuals via the wrong event or media outlet in the past. Knowing that is half the battle. With robust, impartial data, you can fine tune your go to market strategy with more knowledge about who really comprises your target audience and how your efforts impact them.

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